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The major theme of the novel is ‘Corruption of Innocence by evil.’ The innocent and helpless children at Bly are corrupted by the evil influence of bad servants. The governess feels that both flora and Miles are poisoned by the evil influence of the ghosts of the former valet, Peter Quint and governess, Miss. Jessel. However, the governess too, with her morbid mind and obsession with ghosts, torments the children with her suspicion. The children thus become innocent victims of their servants and teachers.
The minor theme of the novel is that ‘Obsession leads to destruction.’ The governess is obsessed with the appearance of ghosts and the idea that the children are under their influence. Thus she looks at the children with suspicion, even though they behave admirably. Her obsession and her prejudice come between her and her pupils. Slowly and steadily, this breaks up the relationship that she had built up with the children and shatters the peace at Bly.
The mood of the novel is serious as it unfolds the tale of a governess haunted by the ghosts of the former employees at Bly. The governess who arrives at Bly with bright hopes is disillusioned after her encounter with the ghosts. She believes that the children are in communion with the ghosts and therefore becomes prejudiced against them and suspects them of evil activities. This strains her relationship with her pupils and there is tension in the air. Every one undergoes mental turmoil. Gloom, thus envelops the setting of the story and forebodes an ominous end.